PETALING JAYA: A human rights NGO in Cambodia has denounced the decision by the Federal Court in Malaysia to reduce the punishment on a Penang couple convicted of starving to death their Cambodian maid.
Naly Pilorge, director of the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defence of Human Rights (Licadho), was quoted by the Phnom Penh Post yesterday as saying she was “confused and sickened” by the ruling which saved both of them from the gallows.
She said it was especially distressing given “the long suffering and terrible circumstances” endured by the victim, Mey Sichan, that led to her death when working for them.
In Jan 25, the Federal Court allowed the appeals of Soh Chew Tong and his wife Chin Chui Ling against their murder conviction under Section 302 of the Penal Code, and the death sentence that it carried.
The couple, who own a hardware business in Bukit Mertajam, were then sentenced to 10 years in jail by virtue of a lesser charge under Section 304(b) for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
Incidentally, just the day before the ruling the Cambodian government had announced the lifting of its ban to disallow maids from the kingdom from working in Malaysia.
The moratorium was imposed in October 2011 following reports of widespread abuses experienced by its domestic workers in Malaysia.
The Khmer Times reported on Jan 24 that the first batch of legally employed maids was now expected to arrive in Malaysia in June this year.
The daily quoted Cambodian labour minister Ith Samheng as saying that he had met with Malaysian Human Resources Minister Richard Riot on three occasions to discuss about recruitment and training processes, and safe working conditions.
Pilorge has long warned about the risks that Cambodia’s women workers faced from their Malaysian employers without proper protective measures.
Just days after Cambodia’s prime minister Hun Sen signed the order barring recruitment firms from sending the workers to Malaysia in 2011, Pilorge had complained that it was quickly violated with agents still sending young women from Phnom Penh to do jobs in Malaysia.
“What happens in reality is that documents are falsified, lies are said to families, to girls,” the Voice of America (VoA) quoted her as saying on Oct 16, 2011.
“Recruiting agencies are detaining girls, indebting them and other criminal acts just to meet the quota of being able to send 3,000 girls and women to Malaysia,” she said.
Pilorge had also said that the ban was just a “temporary bandage”.
“What really needs to happen is that no Cambodian women are sent to Malaysia until proper safeguards and other mechanisms are put in place to protect domestic workers and other Cambodian workers,” she said.
She added that the government had imposed the ban in part due to worries about the US downgrading Cambodia’s human trafficking status and putting it at risk of losing foreign aid from Washington, the VoA reported.